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Do I have ARFID?

Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) is a serious mental health condition that involves a severely limited diet due to fear of or disinterest in food.

With ARFID, as with all other eating disorders, official diagnoses should come from mental health professionals who take many aspects of a patient's health and history into account.

But if you suspect you or a loved one may have avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, learning more about ARFID symptoms or taking a "Do I have ARFID test" online may be a helpful way to start better understanding your thoughts and behaviors or move in the direction of help.

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Last updated on 
January 18, 2024
Do I have ARFID quiz
In this article

What is ARFID?

Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder resembles other eating disorders in that someone with this condition will avoid eating foods or severely restrict their diet. But unlike anorexia nervosa or other restrictive disorders, ARFID has nothing to do with poor body image or a fear of gaining weight.

Instead, those with ARFID show a general lack of interest in eating or a fear of food. This is often connected to sensory aspects of food, including its color, smell, and texture. Food-based anxiety can also be tied to fears that one will choke or throw up after eating.1,6

As a result of these feeding or eating disturbances, someone may have physical symptoms and outcomes similar to those of anorexia nervosa (AN). But again, with ARFID, the disordered eating behaviors do not have to do with body shape or size or a fear of gaining weight.

Do I have ARFID quiz

ARFID vs. "picky eating"

It can be difficult to tell the difference between ARFID and more routine picky eating, especially because both conditions generally first appear in early childhood.8 But, especially over time, some distinctions between the two can be noticed.

Picky eating is a normal part of human adaptation. Children require different amounts of energy during different phases of growth, with a slow-down around age 5 often corresponding to less food consumption overall. Factors like parental feeding techniques, attention-seeking behavior, and modeled food preferences may also play a role.9

Picky eating often looks like the refusal to eat or try new or unfamiliar foods or a general resistance to eating. But ARFID presents as a much more severe version of these behaviors. Weight loss, distress, social avoidance, nutritional deficiencies, or a need for tube feeding can result from a person with ARFID's refusal to eat.7

If you are concerned a loved one has ARFID, learn more about our remote treatment options.

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ARFID also commonly co-occurs alongside other mental health conditions, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and a number of anxiety disorders.8 And while picky eating behavior often goes away after time, behaviors related to ARFID will remain severe, and significantly interfere with someone's mental and physical health.

Symptoms of ARFID

Another good way to distinguish ARFID-related eating habits from picky eating is to learn more about the signs and symptoms of ARFID.

Some of the most common include:6
  • Feelings of sadness, depression, or shame
  • Feeling socially withdrawn or alone
  • Acid reflux, heartburn, or difficulty swallowing
  • Nausea, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • A racing or fluttering heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Someone with ARFID may also have stunted growth if the disorder appears during childhood, if they have prominent weight loss, or if they develop nutritional deficiencies. ARFID can likewise interfere with socialization—people who struggle with this condition may avoid eating in public or with others. And in extreme cases, those with ARFID may require a feeding tube to supplement nutrition.1,2

If you or a loved one are exhibiting these symptoms alongside excessively picky eating, it's important to consult a licensed mental health professional immediately.

Do I have ARFID quiz

If you feel you may have ARFID or any eating disorder, it is recommended that you speak with a doctor promptly. 

Having one or more of the symptoms in this "Do I have ARFID test" could indicate the presence of an eating disorder or another physical or mental health condition that may need attention from a professional.1,2,3,4,5,6

ARFID diagnosis (which involves one or more of the following):
  • Moderate to severe weight loss
  • Nutrient deficiencies that require supplements
  • The need for tube feedings to supply nutrition
  • A disturbance in everyday social activities due to eating, such as eating in
  • public or with others
  • In a child, the inability to reach their predicted weight or growth expectancy

Other signs of ARFID:

  • Muscle loss
  • Absent or irregular menstrual cycles
  • A slow heart rate and other life-threatening heart rhythm problems
  • Hair loss and dry skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Abnormal kidney function
  • Anemia/low blood counts
  • Electrolyte disturbances
  • Low blood sugar
  • An underactive thyroid
  • Bone density loss

If you or a loved one are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it's time to contact a medical professional for further help.

Getting help for ARFID at Within

If you or someone you know has the symptoms associated with ARFID, it is critical to seek treatment. ARFID can be life-threatening if left untreated.6

At Within, our professional treatment team is ready to listen. They will help navigate the steps needed to begin the process of healing and recovery.

Don’t wait—contact us today.

Get help today

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. What are eating disorders? (n.d.). American Psychiatric Association. Accessed November 2023.
  2. American Psychiatric Association publishes updated guideline on eating disorders and accompanying Implementation Tools. (2023, February 27). Accessed November 2023.
  3. Thomas, J. J., Wons, O., & Eddy, K. (2018). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 31(6), 425–430.
  4. Treasure, J., Duarte, T. A., & Schmidt, U. (March 14, 2020). Eating disorders. The Lancet, 395(10227), 899–911. 
  5. Brigham, K. S., Manzo, L. D., Eddy, K. T., & Thomas, J. J. (2018). Evaluation and treatment of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) in adolescents. Current Pediatrics Reports, 6(2), 107–113. 
  6. What is ARFID (avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder)? (April 4, 2023). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved May 8, 2023.
  7. Zickgraf, H. F., Franklin, M. E., & Rozin, P. (2016). Adult picky eaters with symptoms of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder: Comparable distress and comorbidity but different eating behaviors compared to those with disordered eating symptoms. Journal of Eating Disorders, 4, 26.
  8. Thomas, J. J., Lawson, E. A., Micali, N., Misra, M., Deckersbach, T., & Eddy, K. T. (2017). Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder: a Three-Dimensional Model of Neurobiology with Implications for Etiology and Treatment. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(8), 54.
  9. Leung, A. K., Marchand, V., Sauve, R. S., & Canadian Paediatric Society, Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee. (2012). The 'picky eater': The toddler or preschooler who does not eat. Paediatrics & Child Health, 17(8), 455–460.

FAQs

How do I know if I have ARFID?

You may have ARFID if you avoid or restrict your food intake due to the characteristics of the food, the fear of eating certain foods, or having no interest in food.

Do I have ARFID, or am I a picky eater?

A picky eater may prefer to avoid eating certain new or common foods but will eat other foods. With ARFID, the avoidance and restriction of eating are extreme and can lead to malnourishment, severe weight loss and distress, and nutritional supplementation through a feeding tube.

How to help someone with ARFID

If you suspect someone you know has ARFID, try to listen without judgment. Consider contacting Within to talk to our team about how best to approach the situation and help get this person the treatment they need. 

Further reading

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Do I have ARFID?

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Signs and symptoms of ARFID

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ARFID eating disorder: Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder

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